Is social drinking bad? Should Christians abstain from alcohol like Muslims do? The Bible warns against drunkeness and taking drugs. If so, then what does 1 Timothy 5:23 mean?
This is an interesting question for a Christian Evidences web site! To answer this question, I really need the context of the question. What is your definition of “social drinking”? Who is asking? Are you asking for yourself, or did someone ask you this question? For some, “social drinking” is it having a beer with friends over dinner. My experience is that the believers who say “social drinking” is OK are often trying to justify having “a few beers.” Christians will do well to stay as far as possible from the worldly attitude toward drinking. Another name for “having a few beers” is getting drunk. Disciples of Jesus should not even approach the grey area of drinking enough alcohol to be mentally or physically impaired. Galatians 5:19 and many other passages, including a number of warnings in the book of Proverbs teach against drunkenness. Christians should not push the limits here.
Given my experience with how the term “social drinking” is used in the US, I advise Christians to not suppport it. The Bible does not outlaw drinking in moderation. A Christian, in the privacy of his or her home, can drink a glass of wine or a single beer, but to drink more than this is to flirt with sin. Drinking in social situations is almost always problematic, because so many who we know have problems with alcohol. Given the large percentage of peopel who are alcoholics or reformed alcoholics, I personally would advise against encouraging anything which could be described as “social drinking.”
I do not want to be legalistic. My purpose in giving this answer is not to advise some sort of total ban on drinking alcohol for Christians, but I believe we are better off being cautious, and would do well to not encourage “social drinking.”
1 Timothy 5:23 is Paul’s advice to Timothy that, because of his stomach condition he should drink some wine. We should be aware that in the ancient world, most water was unsafe to drink. Drinking dilute alcoholic beverages was actually safer than drinking water from most sources. This is not the case in the modern world. Having said that, we know from 1 Timothy 5:23 that all drinking of alchohol is not banned. Jesus drank wine at the Last Supper and probably had some wine at the wedding in Cana (John 1). I already said that the Bible does not completely ban the use of alcohol, but I believe that moderation, which would not include what most call “social drinking,” is taught in the Bible.